A large freshwater prawn poked its head out of a coconut-frond basket. Another followed, then another. They shimmied up, then dove to the sandy ground, attempting a run for their lives.
Too late, though. Milagros Montero caught them for the second time that morning, the first being at the river near her home and put them back. Soon, she would shell and de-vein them, with lightning dexterity, and feed them through a manual grinder with hot chilis, ginger, and shallots. This is how Montero and her son, Jason, make their sarsa a yang, steamed fish cakes, which sell out by mid-morning at the local market.
It was a world away from the all-suite, 596-passengerSilver Muse, our vessel for the preview, with its grand Italianate columns and ever-present air-conditioning. After being taken to shore earlier that morning, we seafarers had traveled in a convoy of motorized tricycles the island's favored mode of transport. But to get to the Montero home, we'd traveled much farther than just those bumpy seven miles from port.
During the preceding week, we had navigated the travelling to Indonesia, first calling at Bali, where an excursion took us through a working farm in the Ubud highlands. Strolling across the patchwork rice paddies, I met a farmer boiling coconut sap into disks of sugar, a beekeeper cracking open a hive to reveal tart red honey, and a gaggle of local kids. They were eager to walk with me, teaching me Balinese and tossing me freshly picked fruits to try. Our walk culminated in a picnic above the terraced farms. Sure, the feast of babi guling suckling pig roasted in an earth oven — was catered by buzzy expat hot spot Nusantara and paired with botanical cocktails of local herbs. Still, we were far from Ubud's touristy, eaten-prayed-and-loved town center.